Children’s exposure to alcohol TV ads hits 12-year low

22nd May, 2020 by Nicola Carruthers

The average number of alcohol TV adverts seen by children fell to the lowest level in 12 years in 2019, according to a new report from the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

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Children’s exposure to ads for spirits and liqueurs was at an average of 0.3 ads per week in 2019

The UK’s advertising watchdog, the ASA, published its latest report on children’s exposure to TV ads for alcohol and gambling in 2019.

The UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code) stipulates that alcoholic drinks containing 1.2% ABV or more cannot be advertised in programmes likely to attract audiences under the age of 18.

The BCAP Code also orders that drinks containing less than 1.2% ABV when presented as low- or no-alcohol versions of an alcoholic drink cannot be advertised on TV to people under the age of 16.

The new ASA report found children’s exposure to all TV ads has fallen, which was likely to have been driven by a decrease in TV viewing among kids. Children’s exposure to all TV ads halved, from a peak of 229.3 ads on average per week in 2013 to a low of 115.9 ads per week in 2019.

Between 2008 and 2019 children’s exposure to TV alcohol ads has decreased by two thirds, from an average of 2.8 to an average of 0.9 ads per week. The average number of alcohol ads children watched on TV in 2019 was the lowest in the 12-year period covered, the ASA found, and remained at similar levels to the previous four years.

Children’s exposure to alcohol ads on TV, relative to adults’ exposure, continues to drop from the peak of 41.1% in 2008 to 19.6% in 2019. The ASA said this means that in 2019, children saw, on average, around one alcohol ad for every five seen by those over the legal drinking age of 18.

Ads for beer, cider or perry continue to make up the majority of alcohol ads watched by children over the 12-year period. In 2019, children saw an average of 0.4 TV ads for those products per week. Proportionally, beer, cider or perry ads continue to make up of around half of all booze ads on TV seen during the period from 2008 to 2019.

The second largest alcohol ad category is spirits and liqueurs, with children’s exposure to ads for those products at an average of 0.3 ads per week in 2019.

Alcohol ads continue to make up less than 1.5% of all TV ads seen by children annually between 2008 and 2019. In 2019, 0.8% of all TV ads seen by youngsters were alcohol ads. This percentage has remained below 1% since 2015, the ASA noted.

Online warning

However, the ASA said it was “mindful of children’s shifting media consumption habits”. The organisation said this was likely to be led by the increasing use of digital media, such as on-demand and online videos, as well as social media engagement.

The ASA warned there was a “need to remain vigilant in policing ads for age-restricted products in other media, in particular online”.

Earlier this year, the ASA banned two Instagram posts promoting Southern Comfort whiskey liqueur after they appeared to feature people under the age of 25.

In January, a number of drinks groups pledged to implement safeguards for at least 95% of its online alcohol marketing by 2024, with the goal of reaching complete compliance at the earliest opportunity.

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